by David Brown
It’s easy to become bogged down by the routines of daily life. We all have the good and bad habits that we fall back on without even thinking about it. But sometimes, it’s essential to take a step back and mentally reset yourself. This can be done in several ways, but the most effective is often to change your environment. If you can get away from your normal surroundings and spend some time in a new place, you can open yourself up to new possibilities and see things in a different light. This can help you break out of any ruts you may have fallen into and start fresh.
In a recent survey, hundreds of high-performing upper management personnel were surveyed. The results were astounding. To stay mentally sharp, the high performers overwhelmingly chose activities that included an element of solitude.
Whether knowingly or not, the findings are consistent with zen philosophy. The goal of zen is to achieve a state of mind called “mushin,” which can be translated as “no mind.” This state is characterized by complete focus and concentration on the present moment. To achieve mushin, zen practitioners engage in activities that require complete focus and attention, such as meditation.
While the survey did not specifically ask about meditation, it’s clear that the respondents who reported the most significant mental productivity were those who had found a way to balance social and solitary activity in their lives.
Respondents reported participating in activities such as motorcycling, fly-fishing, and listening to music through headphones: no work e-mails, no phone calls, just themselves.
The key is to find an activity that allows you to focus entirely on the present moment without distractions. This could be anything from painting to hiking to playing a musical instrument. The important thing is that it’s something you enjoy and can do regularly.
Mentally disconnecting is often underrated. It can be so important to take some time for yourself, just step away from everything and relax. This can be especially beneficial if you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed out.
It’s also important to remember that mentally disconnecting doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. You can spend time with friends or family or simply enjoy peace and quiet. Whatever you do, make sure to take some time for yourself every day. The point is to find a way to disconnect from the stressors of life.
There are a lot of benefits to mentally disconnecting. For one, it can help reduce stress levels. It can also give you some much-needed time to reflect on your life and figure out what’s important to you. Additionally, it can help boost your mood and improve your overall outlook on life.
Mentally recharging allows us to hit the reset button and start fresh. It’s an integral part of maintaining our mental health and well-being. Maintaining our mental health and well-being allows us to continue to be there for other people. Whether we are first responders, parents, friends, etc., we need to be able to maintain ourselves and guide others where we can.
by David Brown
Usually, I don’t write blog posts that could be construed as supporting or being critical of political parties or politicians. However, I think it’s important to talk about the issue of student loan forgiveness. The Biden administration’s recent announcement of up to $10,000 in student loan forgiveness has divided the nation. Some people believe this is a significant step forward and will help many struggling Americans to pay off their student loans. Others think that this is another example of the government giving handouts to people who didn’t work hard enough to earn their degrees or as an act of buying votes.
There are valid points on both sides of the argument. However, I want to focus on the economics of student loan forgiveness and the odd timing of the announcement.
Economics of a Functioning Society
To keep things simple, let’s look at healthcare. We all know that health care costs are soaring. The rising healthcare costs have made it nearly impossible for lower-income households to obtain adequate care under the current system. We don’t discuss nearly enough how those rising costs affect society as a whole.
Rising healthcare costs don’t just make it difficult for people to afford health care. They also make it difficult for businesses to afford to offer health insurance to their employees.
Supply and Demand of Healthcare
The typical fix for the rising healthcare costs is to give more free or subsidized access to lower-income earners. This helps to ameliorate the effects on society but does little to fix the healthcare system itself.
The number of providers limits the healthcare system itself. Given the length of schooling and economic barriers to attending education, the system has an excess demand. The system was not created to handle the number of people trying to use it.
This is where student loan forgiveness comes in.
If we re-think the healthcare model of dumping money into the demand side (ultimately driving up prices for all users) and focus on the supply side, we might be able to achieve something. By increasing providers, increasing medical facilities, and reducing barriers to becoming a healthcare provider, we would allow the market to correct itself.
The economics of a functioning society is tricky, but at their heart, they are about creating an environment where people can prosper.
Forgiving student loan debt would be a way to increase the number of healthcare providers and reduce the overall cost of healthcare.
The same argument could be made for pilots. This year (2022), Travelers have been bombarded with cancellations of flights leaving passengers stranded or vacations canceled.
The problem is a lack of pilots. Many people are critical of the airlines calling on them to hire more pilots. But it isn’t that simple. Becoming an airline pilot is a long and arduous process requiring time and money.
Pilot training is expensive.
Again, student loan forgiveness could be a way to increase the number of pilots and reduce the overall cost of travel.
The same argument can be made for other professions in high demand but with high entry barriers.
Economics of Student Debt
Proponents of student loan forgiveness argue that it will stimulate the economy by freeing up money for people to spend on other things. This is based on the theory of Keynesian economics, which says that consumer spending is the key driver of economic growth. By forgiving $10,000 in student loans, the thinking goes, borrowers will have more money to spend on other things, which will spur economic growth.
Critics of this argument point out that the vast majority of people with student loans are not in a position to make significant purchases like a house or a car. In addition, the money that would be freed up by loan forgiveness is not likely to be spent immediately, but would instead be saved or used to pay down other debts.
There is some evidence to support both sides of this argument. A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that people with student debt are more likely to delay major life milestones like buying a house or getting married. On the other hand, another study found that people who had their student loans forgiven were more likely to start businesses and increase their spending.
The jury is still out on whether student loan forgiveness will positively or negatively affect the economy. However, some other interesting aspects of this situation are worth considering.
The timing of the announcement is curious. The same day the announcement was made, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell made a speech highlighting the need to keep interest rates high. The rationale was to curb inflation. Hence the odd timing. Suppose excess cash in an economy is driving up inflation. In that case, the Federal Reserve’s move to increase interest rates is a move to slow spending and reduce the amount of money in an economy. So, on the one hand, the government is announcing a policy to put more cash in Americans’ hands via student loan forgiveness. On the other hand, the Federal Reserve is trying to take away some of that cash by increasing interest rates.
The opposing financial policies could have interesting implications. If the Fed’s policy successfully slows economic growth, it could offset any stimulus effect of the student loan forgiveness. On the other hand, if the Fed’s policy fails and inflation does pick up, the extra cash from loan forgiveness could exacerbate the problem.
The announcement’s timing comes less than three months before the midterm elections. Some have accused the administration of trying to buy votes with this policy. It’s impossible to know the motivations behind the timing of the announcement. However, it is worth noting that this is not the first time a significant policy announcement has been made close to an election.
Student loan forgiveness is a complicated issue with pros and cons on both sides of the argument. However, some other interesting aspects of this situation are worth considering. The announcement timing is curious, to say the least, and could have negative implications for the economy if it is unsuccessful. Additionally, the policy may be an attempt by the administration to buy votes before the midterm elections. Despite these potential issues, student loan forgiveness could have a positive effect on the economy if it is implemented correctly.
Either way, I think it’s time we re-examine society’s goals. If we genuinely want affordable healthcare, let’s look at the supply side and invest there. Putting more strain on a broken system is unlikely to be a successful long-term solution.
by David Brown
What a great business plan it should have been. Offer a subscription for a good that typically is marked up at 80% as a national average. People would pay the subscription fee, get to the coffee shop, and casually pick up breakfast or a bagel or some other idea while they are already there. Genius.
Panera had been advertising its coffee service with a campaign that seemed to attack competitors. Specifically Starbucks and other specialty coffee shops. The ads ran as a series of people tired of waiting in line behind individuals ordering complex drinks. The ads targeted your average coffee drinker. Someone like myself. There is no need for sweeteners, cream, sugar, whip cream, skinny, no-fat, whatever the case. I just want to quickly grab my coffee and kindly exit, or better yet, drive off.
Then, Panera introduced its unlimited coffee subscription plan. Every two hours, you could get a fresh cup of coffee for a monthly fee. Originally priced at $8.99, the math worked out to about 4 cups of coffee. It made sense to me. There was a Panera on my way to work, and I worked an average of 20-days per month in the office. A coffee each day on my way in was well worth the subscription fee.
Things went wrong
At first, the subscription service worked well. I never had to wait for my coffee since it was always freshly brewed and ready to go, and I could enjoy a cup no matter what time of day it was. No more long lines or waiting for my drink; all I had to do was show my type in my phone number, and then my coffee would be ready instantly.
Then, as the pandemic restriction lifted, more people started showing up at the coffee shop.
Remember, Panera had the advertisement about just wanting the coffee.
Things go wrong because the food ordering at Panera is painfully slow, especially if you’re the person that is second in line. Even more frustrating, Panera was on my way to work meant that I was typically time-crunched.
Knowing how slow the process was, If I saw one car in the drive-through, I would bypass Panera altogether. I got stuck behind someone in the drive-through line one too many times. The waiting, just for one simple cup of coffee, seemed foolish.
I’ll go inside
The same thing occurred there for me. Unfortunately, I would seem to always get behind someone in line who wanted to stare at the menu with no situational awareness that people were waiting behind them.
It seemed that nothing I could do quickly got me a simple cup of coffee.
I get that people are drawn to a restaurant for simple pleasures, such as coffee, and may want an occasional sandwich. However, we should encourage Panera to have a separate pull-off area for people waiting on food orders. Or not allow food orders at the drive-through window.
Perhaps we could someday get a coffee and express lane for beverage service only.
That would relieve some congestion, and I’d gladly pay a slightly higher subscription fee for that convenience.
But until then, I have unsubscribed from Panera’s unlimited coffee service. I still brew my coffee and take it to work with me every day. Occasionally, if there are no cars in the drive-through, I’ll swing through a Panera.
Unfortunately, the lack of convenience in a busy world has prevented me from enjoying another subscription service.
by David Brown
In ancient Greek philosophy, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is a story that describes people who are chained inside a cave and can only see shadows cast on the wall. The shadows represent what they perceive as reality. These people tell each other that these shadows are real things. They believe in them more than anything else. Those outside of the cave, who have seen reality with their own eyes, know better and try to convince those chained inside to come out into the light and see how wrong they are about what is true and what isn’t. But this doesn’t work because those inside don’t want to leave their comfortable place where they feel secure. After all, “they know” everything there is to know while believing nothing could be better than what they have.
The problem with this story is that it’s not just a story. It’s an allegory for the human condition. We are all like the people in the cave, perceiving shadows on the wall and believing them to be reality. And, just like the people in the cave, we don’t want to leave our comfort zone because we’re afraid of what we might find out.
What is real?
The only way to break out of this cycle is to challenge our beliefs and ideas about what is real and what isn’t. We need to be willing to question everything we think we know and be open to the possibility that we could be wrong. Only then can we start to see reality for what it is.
We can question what we think we know by examining our proclamations and asking ourselves if they stand up to scrutiny. If you think back to five years ago, there is a chance that the thoughts and beliefs you held then are no longer valid. You have progressed.
We see this routinely when we think back to our twenties or even teen years. We say things like, “I wish I would have known then what I know now.” We are not the same people we were then. We have a different perspective now.
We change as we experience more of life. Our perspectives change as we learn new information and grow in our understanding. This is progress.
It can be difficult to evaluate our progress because it’s not always easy to see how far we’ve come. We may not realize how much we’ve changed until we look back on our old beliefs and ideas and see how different they are from our current ones. But it’s important to try to do this to see just how much progress we’ve made and how much further we still have to go.
We have a habit as a species of evaluating ourselves from where we think we should be. When we think in this manner, we are thinking from the end backward. Memento Mori, which means “remember you will die” in Latin, is a way of thinking that can help us remember our mortality and appreciate the time we have been given.
It allows us to see that each day is a gift and not a right. It’s a reminder that our time is limited, and we need to make the most of it. It helps us focus on what’s important and not get caught up in things that don’t matter.
Most importantly, in the context of evaluating our progress, it eliminates us from thinking about how much further we have to go. While reading this, you could die from an aneurism where you think your endpoint should suddenly become irrelevant.
Instead, evaluate yourself on how far you have come. Not compared to anyone else. Not compared to where you think you should be. But, actual evidence is proof of the gap between where you started and where you are now.
This is progress. And, it’s the only thing that matters.
If you feel stuck or like you’re not making the progress you want to be, take a step back and look at how far you’ve come. You’ll be surprised by just how much progress you have made. And once you see it, you can use it as motivation to keep going.
by David Brown
I’m sure many things made up your favorite day from the past week, but I’ll bet one of them was an activity that stuck out above the rest. Think about what activities come to mind when thinking back on a great time in the past week.
Your favorite activity from the past week was probably something that challenged you and made you feel good. Maybe you rode your bike for the first time in years or cooked a complicated recipe from scratch. Whatever it was, it gave you a sense of accomplishment and made you feel good about yourself. And that’s precisely what we need to do more to improve ourselves.
We need to be challenged.
Too often, we get stuck In the game of complacency. We sit around waiting for things to happen to us rather than actively pursuing the life we want to live. We become content with just getting by, and our days start to blur together into one big, indistinguishable mass. But if we’re going to live our best lives truly, we need to find ways to regularly push ourselves out of our comfort zones.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that we need to put ourselves in danger or do something that makes us unhappy. But it does mean that we should challenge ourselves intellectually, physically, and emotionally on a regular basis. By doing so, we keep ourselves sharp and prevent ourselves from becoming stagnant.
As Marcus Aurelius pointed out, “The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.” In other words, it’s far better to challenge ourselves and fail than it is to play it safe and never truly experience life.
When was the last time you felt happy?
Ask yourself an honest question. When was the last time you felt happy?
Chances are, it was during some period of growth. The combination of humility and eagerness to learn allowed you to accomplish something great, and in the process, you found joy.
Humility is needed to acknowledge we are still a work in progress. Eagerness to learn is needed to improve upon our position continually. The key is not to dwell or obsess about becoming happy. Arthur Schopenhauer said it best:
“The two enemies of human happiness are pain and boredom.”
Focus on the process, not the result.
The problem with constantly seeking out new challenges is that we can become so focused on the outcome that we forget to enjoy the journey. We get so caught up in our destination that we forget to appreciate the view along the way. We become fixated on summiting the mountain instead of enjoying the climb.
It’s important to remember that life is a journey, not a destination. The goal is to enjoy the ride, not just arrive at the finish line. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Our natural tendency is to focus on what lies ahead, which can often lead to anxiety and stress.
It’s not about winning or losing.
In our culture, we tend to see life as a competition. We’re constantly comparing ourselves to others and striving to be the best. We keep score of our successes and failures, and we define ourselves by our victories and defeats.
But what if we stopped seeing life as a competition? What if we stopped trying to win or lose and just focused on enjoying the game? Would we be happier? Would we be less stressed? I think the answer is yes.
Growth is not a straight line. It’s full of zig-zags and starts and stops. But if we want to experience true happiness, we need to be okay with embracing the chaos.